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Using Other People’s Quotations in Your Book

You can hardly pick up a nonfiction book without seeing a quotation from someone other than the author. Sometimes the quotations are thought-provoking, but sometimes they seem to just fill space.

When should you consider using other people’s quotations in your book? Here are some reasons.

When the quote is familiar to your intended readership and complements your point.
When the person being quoted is highly respected or the name recognizable and the quote complements your point.
When you want to demonstrate to the reader that you are not alone in your opinion/idea/point.
When you want to reinforce or enhance your opinion/idea/point with something profound or poetic.
When you want credibility (by association to someone respected) in your field.

CAUTION! Unless you are writing a quotation book, do not overuse quotes. Too many quotes create the impression your ideas are not your own, but rather the offshoot of thoughts of others.

Also, be aware that you may need permission when quoting another person. How do you know when you need permission? I’m not an attorney, and this falls under legal advice of what constitutes fair use of copyright, but, in general, use of the quotation cannot compromise the originator/owner’s right to profit from it. When in doubt, seek permission or legal counsel.

Using other people’s quotes in your book can add a dimension of credibility to your work, if you use them judiciously.

Happy writing!


Back to writing!

With all the changes in the book publishing world, we’ve been changing too. We’ve moved our offices and refocused our business, so I haven’t posted in a while.

We’re now working with authors to publish their books themselves. Technology has made it easier for authors to publish e-books, for example, but technology can’t create good editing, proofreading, cover design, interior design, etc. You still need publishing professionals if you want your book to look professional instead of  “do-it-yourself.”

That’s where we come in. We still guide authors through the publishing process, but the authors work directly with the editor, proofreader, designer, and printer (in the case of printed books) so the author knows what’s going on every step of the process. We have all the contacts, which flattens the learning curve for the author.

That also means I can get back to writing. Thanks for your encouragement and patience during this time while we made the changes.

I expect you’ve been taken away from your writing now and then (as I was), so I want to encourage you to get back to doing something connected to writing every day. Here’s a list of some things to get you going again.

  • Read something fun (a chapter in a novel, a magazine article), and think about what the writer did to bring it to you to enjoy so you can do the same for your reader.
  • Make a list of topics you’re interested in writing about–then decide if they are articles or book chapters (or both).
  • Research your book. Research can be done many ways–experience, observation, reading, interviewing, etc.
  • Think about your reader and how you’ll market your book so your reader knows it exists.
  • Give your book a working title. When you have one or two working titles, look them up in or Google them to see if they’re already in use. You don’t want people to confuse your book with others.
  • Write!

Happy writing!

Everyone has an Agenda

Have you ever noticed how there are two sides to every issue? The decision to royalty publish or pay-to-publish is no different.

You’ll find royalty publishing advocates who assert you aren’t “really” published if you pay to publish. They say you need an outside party to deem your work worthy of purchase (yes, you are selling your intellectual property, so  no longer own your own writing when you royalty publish).

I don’t disagree that you should have some third party (writers group or volunteer readers qualify) honestly tell you about the quality of your writing, but too often the criteria royalty publishers use to determine whether or not someone should be published is how much money the author can make for the publisher rather than the quality of writing. That’s why the two primary questions royalty publishers ask are (1) What will you do to sell this book? and (2) What is your platform (meaning how well known are you)?

If selling your intellectual property and doing the marketing to earn about 7 percent of the net (which is typically 25 to 35 cents per book SOLD) works for you, I’m all for it for you.

Authors who pay to publish (whether that’s self, subsidy, or equity) invest in themselves and, depending on the choices they make, keep all the profits from sales or share some of the profits with the publisher or get minimal “royalties” back when they sell books they’ve already paid to publish.

A book is self-published when the author actually owns the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) since ISBNs are issued to publishers. Expert Publishing owns its ISBNs, thus our authors are not self-published and we don’t represent that they are.

With so many publishing options, books are flooding the marketplace as never before. The biggest challenge an author has today is not getting published–it’s in attracting readers. Authors have to do more than ever to get noticed by readers and sell books. And that goes for all publishing options because, frankly, most readers don’t pay attention to how a book is published as much as how clearly it is written, how professionally it is designed, and how easy it is to get.

As you plow through the publishing options available to you, be mindful that everyone has an agenda. Royalty publishers dislike self-publishing. Pay-to-publish publishers dislike royalty publishers. I think there’s room for both and publishing is a business decision each author must make individually. Just remember to do your own thinking because everyone–even you–has an agenda. Stay mindful of that and you’ll make a better publishing decision.

Happy writing!



Who Really Wrote Your Piece?

Do a search on almost any set of words and you’ll find multiple sites that quote them exactly. I was trying to find the originator of a quote one of our authors wanted to include, so I typed in the first few words and got a listing of multiple sites that quoted that exact quote. The problem is not one of them gave attribution to the originator.

When I see that, I wonder who really wrote the quote (or blog entry, essay, or article). Anyone can copy other people’s stuff, but it takes skill and ability to write the original.

I suspect one reason people don’t give credit is they haven’t done enough research to find out who credit belongs to.

Another reason might be the source isn’t deemed influential enough to matter. Some people think you need alphabet soup after your name to be credible. Or you need a fancy title. Or you must be famous. Or (pick your criteria).

Some writers have good sources but are concerned readers won’t accept those sources as credible enough. Don’t let that stop you from giving credit where due. Organize sources by whatever credibility criteria  you select (title, awards, fame, credentials, etc.) and give attribution to each source in your writing.

Your sources do matter to your reader, so make sure you offer your good sources in the best possible light. When you do, everyone wins–you, your reader, and your source.

And that brings me to facts versus opinions. If you can back up your writing with facts, by all means do so. But don’t hesitate to also quote opinions–as long as you clearly identify that what you’re writing is an opinion. An example is: “Sarah Anderson, co-founder of Widgets, suggests people are more creative in the early morning hours because their minds are uncluttered by the day’s activities. John Jones, a creativity coach, believes the opposite is true because people draw on the events of the day when they create.”

The bottom line is make sure you are the one really writing your piece, and if you’re including other people’s information in your text, give credit to the originator.

Happy writing!


E-book Tips

Expert Publishing’s newest series, 20 Things Every Successful ______ Knows ™, waited ten years before finding the perfect format–e-books.

The first in the series is 20 Things Every Successful Writer Knows, written by yours truly.

Why did it take us ten years to launch the series? Print books typically require 50 pages to graduate from booklet to book. If you write 20 tips in your field of expertise, you’d have to write at least two pages per tip (plus the front matter and back matter of your book) to reach 50 pages. Sometimes you don’t have two pages of useful information to go with a tip you want to share.

We realized no one wants to read filler, so we never launched the series.

E-books changed all that because e-books don’t have a page number requirement. As we worked on the series, we found some things you might find helpful as you write your e-book.

  • Readers are interested in information, not in how long the book is. Spend your energy writing good content.
  • E-pub surfaced as the primary format for e-books. If you use the old-fashioned .pdf format, chances are your e-book will get forwarded without you getting paid (or even knowing about it being passed around). If you don’t mind that, that’s okay, but most authors want to be paid for their books.
  • Make sure there’s an audience for your book by looking critically at keywords. For example, there’s a bigger interest in being a successful writer than in being a successful author, so writer is the word I chose.
  • Graphics don’t work well in e-books. In fact, the Kindle doesn’t like them much at all, so concentrate on the words, not the graphics.

E-books are great fun to write and once you’ve gotten hooked on using your e-reader, you’ll think they’re great fun to read too.

Happy writing!


When Editor and Author Disagree

I realize it’s a tough concept to grasp (not!), but sometimes editors and authors disagree during the editing process. When that happens, here are some tips to use.

  • A good book editor never changes an author’s voice or writing style. However, a good book editor should ask questions of the author regarding things that are unclear in the writing. If the editor doesn’t understand what the author is trying to say, the editor is not in a position to correct the manuscript.
  • A good book editor offers suggestions to the author on how something may be written more clearly for reader understanding. If the editor is confident about what the author’s intention is, it’s helpful when the editor offers suggestions that rewrite the sentence or paragraph so the author can see the editor’s point more clearly.
  • A good book editor understands authors know what they intend to say and thus it’s easy for authors to skip something they think is obvious but the reader may not. It’s the job of a good book editor to alert the author to those holes in the manuscript so the author can fill them in.
  • A good author never takes edits personally. Publishing is business. Books are in print (or on e-readers) a long time. Good authors realize good editors strive to improve the book, not attack the author.
  • A good author considers editor suggestions regarding content and clarity, then makes the decision on how to handle the suggestions.
  • A good author understands there are style manuals the editor follows (Chicago Manual of Style in the case of book editing) and allows the copy edits (punctuation, capitalization, subject-verb agreement, etc.) without argument.

There will be disagreements between editors and authors, but using these tips should help.

Happy writing!

Self-publishing Blues

One of the most common misconceptions about independent publishing is that if you pay to publish, you are self-published. That’s simply not true UNLESS you own the publishing company. So, who is the publisher? The owner of the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is the publisher.

Thus, if you purchase the ISBN from Bowker, you are the publisher of your work and thus are self-published.

At Expert Publishing, we purchase the ISBNs, which means we are the publisher of record and none of our authors (except me) are self-published. It also means all the negative connotations associated with the term self-publishing disappear.

Unfortunately, too many puppy mill presses confuse the marketplace by continuing to misuse the term self-publishing.

Another confusing term the puppy mill presses use is print-on-demand publishing. Print-on-demand isn’t a type of publishing. It’s a type of printing technology. Specifically, it’s the term used for digital printing technology.

The last term I want to alert you to is vanity publishing versus pay-to-publish. Vanity publishers charge high fees and do little or nothing to improve your book. They are not discerning in what they publish. If you’ve got enough money, they’ll publish you.

Pay-to-publish options are springing up all over, including in royalty publishing houses. In 2009, the Wall Street Journal reported that Thomas Nelson, a major Christian book publisher, added West Bow Press as an imprint. The article alerts the reader that Thomas Nelson editors will not be editing manuscripts published in this imprint, however.

Another pay-to-publish enterprise is Harlequin’s (yes, the royalty romance publisher) venture, Harlequin Horizons. In November 2009, an email interview conducted with to Malle Vallik, Harlequin’s Digital Director, revealed that books  published in this imprint won’t enjoy “traditional Harlequin distribution” nor “carry traditional Harlequin branding.”

Book publishing is business, not dream fulfillment. It’s up to you, as author, to make the best business decision for your publishing goals. Expert Publishing only publishes business, self-help, and inspiration books. Yes, our authors pay for our expertise, and we’re discerning about what we publish since our name is on the book too. If we don’t think the author’s manuscript is ready for the marketplace, we turn it down.

Before you decide how to publish your book, do your homework. If you decide to sell your intellectual property to a royalty publisher, good for you. If you decide to keep your rights and own them once published, good for you. But whichever way you go, be sure you’re getting good book design, good book editing, and book publishing expertise you trust because books are in print a long time.

Happy writing!